Mental Health In An Unequal World

Mental health and well-being really came to the front of the agenda in the last 10 years however the pandemic has undeniably put a different light on the topic. All of us have faced situations that we never imagined we would be confronted with before Covid 19 arrived in our lives and we have all become a lot more aware of our mental health. The pandemic has been a test for most of us and we have all reacted to this challenge in different ways. It has also shown rising inequalities in the population depending on your wealth, race, gender and which part of the country you live in.

At a time when the government has been talking about levelling up and investing in the development of parts of the country that have remained behind, asking ourselves how the postcode we live in can impact our access to help seems legitimate. How equal are we when faced with mental health issues? How much support can we expect and how quickly can we get it?

We cannot reasonably expect the Government to provide support to all of us all the time. The additional pressure the Covid pandemic has put on the NHS means giving access to psychological support to all those in need of it has become even more challenging. Is there a place for employers to support employees? And how can employers fill the inequality gap when it comes to mental health?

Companies can certainly play a part in looking after the mental health of their workforce. Prevention should be at the top of the list. Creating a positive and inclusive workplace where people feel safe to be themselves and speak up is important. Bullying and psychological harassment are well-known causes of stress in the workplace. Accepting diversity and celebrating it will contribute to a better work environment where employees, regardless of their race, gender, opinions or sexual preferences, do not have to face toxic comments and attitudes. Listening to employees who voice concerns about their workload or about their capacity to complete certain tasks as well as providing them with assistance will go a long way towards reducing work-related stress.

Of course, work is not the only source of stress and mental health problems. What happens in our personal lives impacts us in the workplace. No matter how hard we try to keep things compartmentalised we sometimes struggle to do it. In these circumstances, companies can deploy several measures to support employees who have mental health issues.

Employers should foster a culture of openness. People should be encouraged to talk about their mental health and should be given forums such as one to ones with their managers to discuss any issues. Employees’ needs will change depending on their circumstances, make sure you check-in on a regular basis to identify any issues early and to pre-empt them. Proactively offering flexibility and being accommodating will go a long way in supporting a struggling employee.

Companies can also promote well-being by offering access to apps that can help with sleep, meditation and mindfulness training. Giving employees headspace during the day, encouraging them to take breaks away from their screens to get some fresh air and stretch their legs is a small but significant step in increasing well-being.

Human Resources should organise training sessions for managers to help them recognise signs of emotional distress and to give them tools to deal with mental health issues. A mental health champion can also be appointed, giving employees extra support and a different point of contact if they do not wish to speak to their manager.

However, in some cases, the fear of stigma can prevent some employees from speaking up. Companies can explore other health support mechanisms such as Employee Assistance Programmes. These programmes offer access to mental health professionals on the phone or in person. They are completely confidential, free of charge for employees and make it easier for them to access mental health support without having the fear of stigma. Another way to give access to professional support to your employees is to include mental health coverage in the medical insurance provided.

At Partner Financial, we believe that looking after employees’ mental health and well-being should be a building block for any business. Asking people how they are, paying attention to the answer and providing support can go a long way in improving employee retention and building loyalty. Even more importantly, companies can contribute to society by facilitating access to mental health support and therefore help narrowing the gap of existing inequalities. How does your company make sure mental health is a top priority?

November 13, 2021